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In the past decade, we’ve seen an unfortunate increase in gun-related incidents on school campuses, making security and policy efforts a top priority for educational facilities nationwide. While the causes for this increase are hotly debated in and around the education community, the facts remain that specific steps can be taken to mitigate risks. To tackle this issue, officials from campus stakeholders, law enforcement officials, architects, and security personnel, have met to find solutions for protecting educational facilities. Further complicating matters, educational campuses are again tasked with mitigating health risks associated with COVID-19, as we head into the third pandemic school year. Video communication tools To safely reopen, new technologies and policies in many K-12 and higher education institutions have been released, with many searching for a way to leverage existing security infrastructure. Achieving both health safety and physical security requires an integrated approach—from all-around best practices, to video communication tools and enhanced security infrastructure. The simple intercom has been a security staple in the education market for many years A holistic approach is best to ensure the safety of students, staff, and visitors. The simple intercom has been a security staple in the education market for many years, but now in a pandemic-centric world, these devices provide a new set of required capabilities. Intercoms, once thought to be a basic security tool, can now be combined with video, offering users the ability to solve multiple pain points associated with COVID-19. Controlled access points In this article, we’ll discuss some best practices for educational decision-makers, as well as how video intercoms can enhance overall security architecture. A school’s first opportunity to mitigate threats lies in its ability to deter threats entering in the first place. This begins with ensuring policies, procedures, and equipment are all up to standard. Most campus shootings and other violent acts occur once the individual has made it through the front door of a building; putting the emphasis on controlled access points at key entries to add an extra barrier of safety between threats and students. While written policies help staff understand how visitors are approved for entry, they should also be informed of more simple items, such as why doors can’t be left propped open, when to lockdown, or how to evacuate during an emergency. Physical security solutions The security industry has also created effective physical security solutions for protecting a campus Another best practice would be training staff to spot signs of distressed and potentially violent students, while providing ways to get help for them. When it comes to campus security, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, which is why security integrators should also be included in planning processes to tailor a custom solution for each campus to address its unique security needs. While best practices, including mental health screenings, stricter discipline codes, and faster law enforcement responses are all crucial to campus safety, the security industry has also created effective physical security solutions for protecting a campus—which includes enhanced two-way video and audio/visual communication solutions such as a video intercom. For years educational facilities have utilized intercoms to manage access, but now, it’s more important than ever to ensure the safety of students and staff by thoroughly vetting all those who enter a building. Providing visual verification Long gone are the days of asking visitors to check in manually using a sign-in book, or simply walking into a school. Best practices now require the presence of a visitor management system (VMS), which is a more accurate and seamless way to manage access. Using a VMS, a campus could add its own custom watch list, which when properly implemented, can provide protection from abuse orders, custodial issues, and offer names and pictures of disgruntled former employees and students. Using a VMS, a campus could add its own custom watch list, which when properly implemented As security technology has become more sophisticated, so have intercom capabilities—extending far beyond what they used to be. Going further than a simple button and speaker system, when used in conjunction with an IP video system, intercoms provide visual verification that the person requesting access into a school building does indeed belong there. Contact tracing solutions Whether it’s a student, parent, or staff member, verifying a person’s identity and ensuring that the individual has proper credentials is key. Pairing an intercom with a camera allows for this important, real-time visual and audio communication between the front office and those requesting access. Additionally, intercoms can be used as contact tracing solutions by leveraging an audit trail in case of an outbreak. For example, if a number of students at a college or university all use a mobile app to gain access to a dormitory through an intercom system, in the event that someone tests positive for COVID-19, they are able to contact all students, staff, or visitors who frequent that building. IP video intercoms can assist in pandemic related and security use cases by limiting unnecessary human-to-human interaction and replacing that with remote management capabilities. Remote monitoring station Remote monitoring allows for eyes on a facility while personnel are not physically present There is increased flexibility when working from a mobile app, or remote monitoring station, especially for security directors or officers on educational campuses. For example, if a campus is not able to staff a lobby of a building or a dormitory, they can remotely manage access from a mobile device. This enables security personnel to access video feeds and directly communicate with students or staff requesting access into a building. Remote monitoring allows for eyes on a facility while personnel are not physically present, thus increasing overall security. It can also give the appearance of the building being occupied at all times, even when it’s not. Another way an educational facility can leverage their video intercom system is to shift to mobile applications that offer a touchless way to gain access. Mobile application credential A mobile application removes the need for a physical key card and eliminates the potential of loss or theft of that access credential. It also allows for easy updating to credential status. For example, if a student, staff member or visitor is added to an ‘access denied’ list, security personnel can simply revoke a mobile application credential, versus having to track down a physical key and run the risk of copies or other issues. The importance of visual confirmation cannot be stressed enough when it comes to educational campuses The importance of visual confirmation cannot be stressed enough when it comes to educational campuses. Not only for security purposes to visually confirm identity, or screen for suspicious behaviors or other anomalies, simply having the ability to have a conversation with someone requesting access is vital. Better audio feedback There’s been a shift in recent years, in some cases spurred by the pandemic, to focus on how existing technologies can meet the unique needs of students, staff and visitors. For example, intercoms allow for two-way video which is crucial for an individual who is deaf, or hearing impaired, who needs to communicate using sign language. Additionally, intercoms can be integrated with t-coil features, to allow for better audio feedback for those with hearing aids. The past few years have taught us that while best practices, attention to the mental wellbeing of students, enhanced security at main entry points, and exits are all important focuses, educational security needs to be holistic and comprehensive. From physical security risks, to potential pandemic-related outbreaks, to the regular day-to-day communication needs of all individuals, decision-makers recognize intercom systems easily address each unique need.
Video surveillance systems are producing more unstructured data than ever before. A dramatic decrease in camera costs in recent years has led many businesses to invest in comprehensive surveillance coverage, with more cameras generating more data. Plus, advances in technology mean that the newest (8K) cameras are generating approximately 800% more data than their predecessors (standard definition). Traditional entry-level solutions like network video recorders (NVRs) simply aren’t built to handle massive amounts of data in an efficient, resilient and cost-effective manner. This has left many security pioneers grappling with a data storage conundrum. Should they continue adding more NVR boxes? Or is there another, better, route? Retaining video data In short, yes. To future proof their video surveillance infrastructure, an increasing number of businesses are adopting an end-to-end surveillance architecture with well-integrated, purpose-built platforms for handling video data through its lifecycle. This presents significant advantages in terms of security, compliance and scalability, as well as unlocking new possibilities for data enrichment. All of this with a lower total cost of ownership than traditional solutions. Security teams would typically delete recorded surveillance footage after a few days or weeks Previously, security teams would typically delete recorded surveillance footage after a few days or weeks. However, thanks to increasingly stringent legal and compliance demands, many are now required to retain video data for months or even years. There’s no doubt that this can potentially benefit investigations and increase prosecutions, but it also puts significant pressure on businesses’ storage infrastructure. Data lifecycle management This necessitates a more intelligent approach to data lifecycle management. Rather than simply storing video data in a single location until it’s wiped, an end-to-end video surveillance solution can intelligently migrate data to different storage platforms and media as it ages. So, how does this work? Video is recorded and analyzed on a combination of NVR, hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) and application servers. Then, it’s moved to resilient file storage for a pre-determined period, where it can be immediately retrieved and accessed for review. Finally, based on policies set by heads of security, data is moved from file storage to highly secure, low-cost archive storage such as an object, tape or cloud. Data is moved from file storage to highly secure, low-cost archive storage Long-Term storage This process is known as tiering. It allows businesses to use reliable, inexpensive long-term storage for most of their data, whilst still enabling security pioneers to retrieve video data when the need arises, such as during a compliance audit, or to review footage following a security breach. In a nutshell, it offers them the best of both worlds. Scaling your video surveillance infrastructure can be a headache. Businesses that rely on NVRs – even high-end units with 64 or even 96 hard drives – are finding themselves running out of capacity increasingly quickly. In order to scale, security pioneers then have to procure new boxes. With NVRs, this inevitably involves a degree of guesswork. Should they go for the largest possible option, and risk over provisioning? Or perhaps a smaller option, and risk running out of capacity again? Common management console Security pioneers can easily add or remove storage capacity or compute resources – separately or together As businesses add new cameras or replace existing ones, many end up with inadequate surveillance infrastructure made up of multiple NVR boxes along with several application servers for running other surveillance functions such as access control, security photo databases, analytics, etc. This patchwork approach leaves security pioneers scrambling for capacity, maintaining various hardware footprints, repeating updates and checks across multiple systems, and taking up valuable time that could be better spent elsewhere. By contrast, flexible HCI surveillance platforms aggregate the storage and ecosystem applications to run on the same infrastructure and combine viewing under a common management console, avoiding ‘swivel chair’ management workflows. Plus, they offer seamless scalability. Security pioneers can easily add or remove storage capacity or compute resources – separately or together. Data storage solutions Over time, this ensures a lower total cost of ownership. First and foremost, it removes the risk of over provisioning and helps to control hardware sprawl. This in turn leads to hardware maintenance savings and lower power use. Many security pioneers are now looking beyond simple data storage solutions for their video surveillance footage. Meta tags can provide context around data, making it easier to find and access when needed Instead, they’re asking themselves how analyzing this data can enable their teams to work faster, more efficiently and productively. Implementing an end-to-end video surveillance architecture enables users to take advantage of AI and machine learning applications which can tag and enrich video surveillance data. These have several key benefits. Firstly, meta tags can provide context around data, making it easier to find and access when needed. Object storage platform For instance, if security teams are notified of a suspicious red truck, they can quickly find data with this tag, rather than manually searching through hours of data, which can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack. Plus, meta tags can be used to mark data for future analysis. This means that as algorithms are run over time, policies can be set to automatically store data in the right location. For example, if a video is determined to contain cars driving in and out of your premises, it would be moved to long-term archiving such as an object storage platform for compliance purposes. If, on the other hand, it contained 24 hours of an empty parking lot, it could be wiped. These same meta tags may be used to eventually expire the compliance data in the archive after it is no longer needed based on policy. Video surveillance architecture Continuing to rely on traditional systems like NVRs will fast become unsustainable for businesses Even if your organization isn’t using machine learning or artificial intelligence-powered applications to enhance your data today, it probably will be one, three, or even five years down the line. Implementing a flexible end-to-end video surveillance solution prepares you for this possibility. With new advances in technology, the quantity of data captured by video surveillance systems will continue rising throughout the coming decade. As such, continuing to rely on traditional systems like NVRs will fast become unsustainable for businesses. Looking forward, when moving to an end-to-end video surveillance architecture, security pioneers should make sure to evaluate options from different vendors. For true futureproofing, it’s a good idea to opt for a flexible, modular solution, which allow different elements to be upgraded to more advanced technologies when they become available.
Cloud-based technology can reduce IT costs, streamline application management and make infrastructure more flexible and scalable. So, it’s no surprise that cloud video surveillance solutions (also known as video surveillance as a service or VSaaS) are gaining momentum in a big way. In fact, according to recent reports, the VSaaS market is forecasted to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 10.4% by 2025. But some company owners may wonder – what services does a cloud model deliver and is such a solution right for my business? This article aims to help you determine what cloud video surveillance solution is right for your business and the benefits you can enjoy if you decide to deploy a VSaaS solution. Full cloud-based recording vs cloud-managed First, a bit of clarification on cloud video surveillance models, as definitions can vary from provider to provider. A full cloud-based recording solution is one in which both video recording and management are done offsite (for example, cameras streaming directly to the cloud). While this model can be a good option for some, many large enterprise businesses simply don’t have the bandwidth capacity or network resources required to upload all of their videos to the cloud. Even with the bandwidth capacity, this can be a cost-prohibitive model when hundreds or thousands of IP cameras are involved. A full cloud-based recording solution is one in which both video recording and management are done offsite But that doesn’t mean enterprise businesses can’t take advantage of cloud-managed video surveillance. With this solution, video recording and storage happen on your premises (with network video recorders (NVRs) or a video management system (VMS)), but the video management aspect is handled in the cloud by a third-party provider, usually as a subscription-based service. The provider hosts the central video server overseeing your on-premises devices. Some providers also allow you to back up portions of the video to the cloud, so you can store and share video evidence or select clips needed for investigations. This model combines the performance benefits of local recording with the convenience and cost savings of the cloud. Centralized video surveillance solution Perhaps the greatest benefit of using this type of cloud-managed video surveillance solution is centralization. Because all of your devices are centrally managed in the cloud, you don’t have to travel to a distant location to update a recorder or camera’s software – it’s all done remotely by the provider from a central location. This can save you both time and money, especially since it’s necessary to consistently monitor the configuration settings on cameras and NVRs to ensure they’re correct and functioning properly. If your hardware malfunctions and it isn’t detected immediately, instances of lost video can occur. And business owners know that losing video evidence of theft or fraud could have significant consequences to the efficiency and effectiveness of an investigation. Round the clock monitoring Some providers monitor for changes in cameras’ field of view, so if a camera is blocked or moved, you’ll be alerted With a cloud-managed model, you can rest assured that if a camera goes down or another technical issue arises, the provider will know and will handle it immediately so you can avoid unnecessary truck rolls, which can be costly. Some providers will even monitor for changes in your cameras’ field of view, so if a camera is blocked or moved, you’ll be alerted right away. This type of around-the-clock monitoring eliminates your need for an in-house data center and the IT staff necessary to maintain the video system. This is particularly important if you don’t have the infrastructure or the personnel to host your own video networking equipment. You can also save time with the deployment of your video surveillance solution since your provider will get your system up and running quickly. There’s no need to worry about setting up or configuring the central server or any application software – it’s all taken care of by your provider. Flexible and cost-effective In many cloud-managed solutions, you can also skip the large upfront capital cost of a video surveillance investment and pay a monthly fee for all of these services. This is particularly helpful if it’s difficult for your organization to make large capital investments. You may or may not have to invest in onsite devices (cameras and NVRs), depending on the provider you choose. Some providers will allow you to finance your hardware, while others will want you to purchase it upfront. Many cloud providers also offer robust web clients for viewing video and conducting investigations remotely Many cloud providers also offer robust web clients for viewing video and conducting investigations remotely. These do not require any local downloads, which saves you time and money by avoiding the need for additional IT resources. It also alleviates worrying about whether or not you have the latest version, as the clients are automatically updated. And if you don’t want to spend a lot of time on video analysis, some cloud-managed models offer predefined reports on what’s most important to you. For example, a list of potentially suspicious transactions matched with video – so you can quickly scan to investigate. Getting the right solution Determining whether a cloud-managed video surveillance solution is right for your business is a big decision involving many factors, including your business’s size, bandwidth, and network infrastructure, and overall budget for physical security. By considering the points above, the hope is that you can more easily determine which model is best for your business.
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